Utah officials study new power plant greenhouse gas limits

Brady McCombs, Associated Press
Officials are also holding off on making any major judgments, including whether Utah will join other states and opponents who are vowing to sue the government to stop the rules from taking effect.
Copyright, The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah state officials said they need more time to assess how a plan unveiled Monday by President Barack Obama to decrease emissions from U.S. power plants will impact the state.

Officials are also holding off on making any major judgments, including whether Utah will join other states and opponents who are vowing to sue the government to stop the rules from taking effect.

"All options are still on the table, however, we feel it is still premature for us to make a decision until we have conducted a thorough analysis of the final rule," said Aimee Edwards of the governor's office in a statement.

Environmental groups, though, already know enough to say they are pleased with a plan they say gives Utah a chance to move away from coal and other traditional power sources and toward cleaner energy.

"It's a smart step to combat some of the devastating effects here in Utah," said Lindsay Beebe of the Sierra Club in Utah. "Utah is very heavily dependent on coal."

At Rocky Mountain Power, the state's largest electricity provider, 61 percent of power comes from coal and 14 percent from natural gas. By comparison, only 9 percent comes renewable energy sources.

But Utah has already reduced its power sector carbon pollution by 9 percent since 2008, the White House said in a statement. And the Environmental Protection Agency said in a state primer that Utah's goal of reaching a 37-percent decrease in carbon emission by 2030 is moderate compared to other states.

Utah has five coal plants, one natural gas steam plant and four plants that rely on a combination of natural gas steam and natural gas that are covered under the new plan, said officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality. Combined, there are 23 units at the 10 plants in Utah.

Alan Matheson, executive director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said in a statement that the plan has the potential to impact not only the state's energy industry, but the economy. His office and other state officials will do a thorough analysis of and then determine their plan, he said.

Under the earlier plan, the rock-bottom deadline for states to submit action plans was 2017. But that's being pushed back to 2018 under the final plan. And while states previously had until 2020 to achieve their targets, they'll now have an extra two years — until 2022.

Beebe said southern Utah holds great potential for large-scale solar projects and that some parts of northern Utah are suited for wind energy.

Production of renewable energy from wind, solar and geothermal has already increased fourfold in Utah since 2008, according to the White House.

Rocky Mountain Power has already begun decreasing its reliance on carbon sources and increasing wind and solar, company spokesman Paul Murphy said. The company expects coal to account for just 49 percent of the power they distribute by 2025, he said.

"The transition was happening with or without what the president is doing, but we support him," Murphy said. "We're trying to do it in a way that is orderly and doesn't cause prices to go up. Right now, carbon is a cheaper way to produce electricity."

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

Whitepapers

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Leveraging the Power of Information in the Energy Industry

Information Governance is about more than compliance. It’s about using your information to drive ...

Reduce Engineering Project Complexity

Engineering document management presents unique and complex challenges. A solution based in Enter...

Revolutionizing Asset Management in the Electric Power Industry

With the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things, data is growing and becoming more accessib...

Latest PennEnergy Jobs

PennEnergy Oil & Gas Jobs